Graham Potter’s dream Chelsea appointment is turning into a nightmare.
Manchester City have done a lot of damage to him and his team this season, knocking them out of the Carabao Cup before Christmas and leaving Chelsea in 10th place, 10 points off the top four, with a Premier League win at Stamford Bridge on Thursday.
And a 4-0 FA Cup demolition at the Etihad has now left Potter and his side in limbo.
It summed up everything that has gone wrong with Chelsea this term: an injury-ravaged team, unsure of their structure, unable to get the ball into dangerous areas and toothless in the final third.
However, it’s not just their defeat against an elite City side that has ruined Chelsea’s season.
In the last eight rounds of Premier League matches, Chelsea have won the fewest games and scored the fewest goals. Brentford, Brighton and Nottingham Forest are among the teams that have dropped points during this run.
It is their worst league success since 2010, their first FA Cup third-round exit since 1999.
It’s a troubling statistic and an undesirable record in a season that’s turning into a disaster. Potter is now under enormous pressure and is perhaps grateful that the new ownership has so far not been as ruthless as Roman Abramovich.
The traveling Chelsea fans who booed their team and sang songs for their former owner and Potter predecessor Thomas Tuchel are certainly starting to run out of patience with this project.
But what has gone so crazy? Chelsea, who remain champions of the Club World Cup, reached both domestic cup finals last season and finished best of the rest behind Man City and Liverpool. That’s an incredible drop.
Suddenly their Champions League tie with Borussia Dortmund looks like their only salvation this season, but can Potter turn the ship around?
We take a closer look at the big issues facing Chelsea and the Potters…
Injuries, inconsistency and disruption
As Potter pointed out after Chelsea’s league defeat to Manchester City last Thursday, there are extenuating circumstances that have seen Chelsea pick up just six points from their last eight Premier League games.
The quality of the names on their injury list shows how Potter’s hands are tied in terms of team selection.
Edouard Mendy, Rhys James, Wesley Fofana, Ben Chilwell, N’Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Reem Sterling, Armando Broya, Christian Pulisic… Before Mason Mount recovered for Sunday’s FA Cup, Chelsea were just one center away from hugely injured XI.
James’ absence, without a similar change at right-back, has been particularly damaging, robbing Chelsea of one of their main strikers and limiting their ability to execute a full-back system.
Chelsea injury list
- N’Golo Kante (thigh)
- Rhys James (knee)
- Edouard Mendy (shoulder)
- Wesley Fofana (knee)
- Armando Broja (knee)
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek (ankle)
- Rahm Sterling (hamstring)
- Christian Pulisic (ankle)
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (back)
The extent of those injuries, combined with the World Cup break and the congested fixtures on either side of it, has also denied Potter significant time on the training pitch with his best players.
Eleven of Chelsea’s 12 representatives at the World Cup progressed beyond the group stages, meaning a delayed return to duty.
As a result, the manager has had to shuffle and play from game to game, with teenagers Omari Hutchinson and Bahir Humphreys handed debuts last week. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all this disruption, no Premier League manager has made more changes to his squad since Potter first took charge of Chelsea on October 1.
This inconsistency in selection and formation – Chelsea have started in seven different formations under Potter – has had little effect on the consistency of the team’s performances.
They also have very little depth due to injuries, with options on the bench depleted. Against Man City in the league, Chelsea’s nine substitutes included four teenagers, two others under 23, Jorginho (31) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (33).
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Potter said of the injury crisis last week. It has been a frustrating run of strikes that has left Chelsea seemingly stranded in search of short-term solutions. That is rarely a recipe for success and has hurt Chelsea in all competitions.
Known failures on the front line
Potter could not have predicted the injury crisis that lay ahead when he took over at Chelsea, but he would have been well aware of the team’s key attacking problems when he signed up for the project.
Tuchel and Frank Lampard before him failed to find the right formula in this area of the pitch during their tenures, and Potter seems as lost as the solution.
He started Hakim Ziyech, Mason Mount and Kai Havertz against Man City on Sunday as Sterling’s early injury last week disrupted their strategy for the league meeting.
But regardless of Chelsea’s mix, the stats don’t make for good reading. Chelsea, who have not scored in their first 45 games at the Etihad, are the lowest scorers in the top 10.
They scored twice or more in each of Potter’s first three games, but have failed to score more than once in all but three of their last 12 games. That doesn’t leave much room for error on the other end.
Chelsea’s toothless attack at the Etihad
“Chelsea’s” first shot and first touch in the “Man City” box took place in the 54th minute.
Aubameyang, a striker signed in the summer as a response to Chelsea’s poor spells in front of goal, has slumped. He was embarrassingly missed and then left out again in the Stamford Bridge defeat to Man City since scoring three goals in three games at the start of October and was nowhere to be seen on Sunday.
Haverth, who has often been tipped to step into the lead, has scored important goals for the club, but his tally of four in 16 Premier League appearances this term is a reminder that he will never again be the prolific leader Chelsea will be looking for. for a.
Huge sums have been spent on the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, but it looks like Chelsea will have to spend a lot more in that department going forward.
But it’s not always just about finishing touches. Chelsea have scored a little more than their expected goals this season. Equally to blame is their ability to create.
On Sunday, their first touch in the opposition zone came after 54 minutes, the team looked lost on how to break through the opposition.
Chelsea’s attacking problems at Stamford Bridge
Only Bournemouth have fewer shots at home in the Premier League, only Wolves have fewer shots on goal.
Only Bournemouth have fewer shots at home in the Premier League; only the Wolves have had fewer shots on their patch. Their average of 11.1 shots per game before the league tie with Man City was ranked as the lowest in Opta records.
All of this points to a lack of intensity and agility in attack – and the chance creation stats back it up.
Twelve teams have created more big chances than Chelsea, whose 20 tally is the same as relegation-threatened Everton. Their biggest chance creator, Sterling, isn’t even in the Premier League’s top 30 for key assists.
It’s an astonishing statistic for a Chelsea side who would have hoped to compete at the very top of the table.
Chelsea are crying out for a lethal striker, but their problems start further down the line. Their chance creation is simply not good enough.
Disappointment of fans
Unsurprisingly, given this attacking output, Chelsea fans are becoming frustrated and tired of what they are seeing from their side.
The mood seemed to change significantly at the Etihad on Sunday as Chelsea’s usually tight defense crumbled, but their frustration has been forged at home.
They could be heard shouting “shoot” when their team got into dangerous territory against Man City last Thursday, but once again they left Stamford Bridge without seeing a goal for their side.
Chelsea won just eight of their 16 home games in the Premier League in 2022, their fewest at home since 1996. The New Year has also started on the wrong foot.
All this adds to the pressure on Potter and the players. These fans have been raised for success over the past two decades and they won’t put up with what they’re getting for their money right now.
The league loss to Man City means Chelsea have failed to beat the top half in seven matches this season and failed to stay in Pep Guardiola’s side twice in the cup. Blues followers have had little to enjoy so far this term.
Jamie Carragher suggested last week that despite spending a Premier League record £278.4m in the summer transfer window, Chelsea feel further away from where they want to be.
A big spend this January seems a necessity and inevitable with Benoit Badiasile already signed, but given Chelsea’s many problems, can they just get themselves out of trouble?
Instead, Potter desperately needs time and weather this storm until the injury crisis subsides. Perhaps then a clearer picture of Potter’s Chelsea will emerge.
But that means more short-term pain for Chelsea supporters – and this is a club where patience has historically been in short supply. Writing off the season, even before it has reached its halfway point, is not acceptable for Chelsea.
If Potter is to survive, there could be some very rocky weeks or even months ahead.
The campaign has been a devastating blow to supporters and also to new owner Todd Bailly, given the huge sums he has invested to take over from Abramovich and the additional costs incurred if Chelsea fail to play in the Champions League next season. the top four will be extremely expensive.
City have taken notice of Chelsea’s problems, but the problems are piling up and right now there are no easy answers for Potter and his players.